The National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) has partnered with a triumvirate of film agencies across Southeast Asia to bolster film ambitions across the region, launching the Malaysian Development Lab for Fiction Feature Films (mylab).

It unites FINAS, the Singapore Film Commission (SFC), the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) and Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA) to develop stories and bring through fresh directors, scriptwriters and producers from the region.

Eight projects have been handpicked for a showcase at the first in-person edition of mylab during Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). “The potential of Malaysian and Asian talents and the wealth of stories from the region that are as yet untold is massive,” says mylab curator and founder Lorna Tee. “East and Southeast Asia are very important territories for Malaysian filmmakers to collaborate with, and partnering with SFC, FDCP, TAICCA and the Korean Film Council [KOFIC] is a crucial step to expand the outreach of mylab and build stronger ties within the industries in the region.”

A safe space

As a Malaysian living in Amsterdam after previously being based in Hong Kong, producer Tee knows how important collaboration and know­ledge sharing is to boost filmmaking across Southeast Asia.

“Having been part of various programmes as a participant and mentor over the years — including EAVE, TorinoFilmLab and Venice Biennale College — the value of being in a safe space for development and to build the team from the like-minded people you meet at the labs has always left an indelible mark on my process,” says Tee. “I want mylab to allow filmmakers from Southeast Asia to have more opportunities to develop and grow, not just their projects but their career paths.”

The incubator programme is aimed at scriptwriters, directors and producers looking to work on developing scripts and film projects under the guidance of creative and industry experts. BIFF and the Asian Contents & Film Market (ACFM) are the first international mylab supporters and partners. “It is meaningful for us to meet Malaysian filmmakers through mylab,” says ACFM director Oh Seok Geun. “We will help provide a networking place in Busan for worldwide filmmakers, including Korea and Malaysia, and organise a meaningful event that develops Asian cinema.”

Eligible mylab projects must be at an early stage of development, with a scriptwriter, director and/or producer attached, aimed at regional or international audiences. The ambition is for each project to deliver a package of script, budget, finance plan, dossier and pitch-ready materials at the end of the programme.

The programme at BIFF will feature panels, networking and talks with mentors from across film disciplines to help guide participants through the process. The mentors are from both Asia and Europe to widen the perspectives for the filmmakers and to look at how their stories can reach a wider audience.

Participating as a directing mentor is Singaporean writer/director/producer Anthony Chen (Ilo Ilo, Wet Season), who says he is “looking forward to working with and witnessing the sprouting of a new generation of Malaysian filmmakers, collaborating with regional and international film industries and talents to tell stories that will reach a wider audience”.

Malaysian-Filipino filmmaker Bradley Liew says mylab will present a snapshot into the zeitgeist of contemporary Malaysian cinema, citing a lineup of projects that “represents the filmmakers’ search to understand their country’s current state through a wide exploration of genre, language and cinematic language”.

For German filmmaker and mylab mentor Roshanak Behesht Nedjad, the plan shows “there is a surge of new voices coming from the region, with different perspectives on classical themes”.

The eight projects selected are in the running for the FINAS mylab award of $5,000 towards further development of the project. A jury comprising Cannes’ director of the film department Christian Jeune, Sydney Film Festival director Nashen Moodley and South Korean producer Oh Jung-wan will choose the winner. There is also a TAICCA development award worth $5,000 towards project development and an invitation to pitch at Taiwan Creative Content Fest (TCCF) in 2023.

The lab has previously hosted two online sessions, in June and August 2022.

mylab 2022 Projects & Participants

Absolute (Malaysia)
Dirs Effendee Mazlan, Fariza Azlina Isahak
Scr Fariza Azlina Isahak
Prod Effendee Mazlan

The Depth Of Darkness (Malaysia)
Dir/scr Gogularaajan Rajendran
Prod Kumanavannan Rajendran

Life I Stole (Malaysia)
Dir/scr Putri Purnama Sugua
Prod Tan Cher Kian

Maybe Today, If Not Today, Maybe Tomorrow (Malaysia)
Dir/scr Lim Han Loong
Prod Chua Jing Xuan

Mother Maybe (Philippines)
Dir Sonny Calvento
Scrs Arden Rod Condez, Sonny Calvento
Prod Sheron Dayoc

Under Foreign Skies (Malaysia)
Dir/scr Anwar Johari Ho
Prod Eleanor Teh

Unmother (Singapore)
Dir/scr Jen Nee Lim
Prod Ke Ning Lee

Very Very Important Funeral (Malaysia)
Dir/scr Lim Kean Hian
Prod Omar Yunus